(Reuters) - Donald Blankenship, a former chief executive of Massey Energy Co, was indicted on Thursday on charges that he violated federal mine safety laws prior to the April 2010 explosion at the company's Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, which killed 29 people.

The U.S. Department of Justice said the indictment by a federal grand jury charges Blankenship with conspiring to violate mine safety standards, conspiring to impede mine safety officials, making false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and securities fraud.

Blankenship faces a maximum 31 years in prison on the four counts, the Justice Department said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chris Reese)